Y2K And The Erosion Of The Middle Ground

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Y2K And The Erosion Of The Middle Ground

Somewhere between "a bump in the road" and "the end of the world as we know it" lies the Middle Ground. It is a place where bad things can and do happen but where people with courage, skills and determination work together to overcome difficulties. They don't always succeed -- for The Middle Ground is not a fairy tale universe where everyone lives happily ever after. Sometimes success is only partial and is often bittersweet.

The Middle Ground not a pretty facade, a bedtime story or a marketing campaign. It is not a place where denying reality helps you to see the next sunrise.

It is a place where risk must be accessed and fears faced. It is a place of suprises, not all of which are pleasant. It is a place where luck can be just as important as prudent preparation.

The Middle Ground is where Captain Alfred Haynes and the crew of United Flight 232 landed their DC-10 aircraft that July afternoon 10 years ago.

At 3:16pm on July 19th, 1989, United Flight 232, suffered a catastrophic engine failure while cruising at 37,000 feet. The fan rotor of the aircraft's number two engine disintegrated, causing the loss of all three of the aircraft's redundant hydraulic flight control systems. This made the aircraft nearly impossible to control.

"Everyone was confident that the complete loss of all flight controls was impossible."

But everyone was wrong.

The companies responsible for the aircraft were so confident, in fact, that pilots were not even trained for such an "impossible" scenario. The designers were very proud of their design and their attention to detail, safety and redundancy. When first reports of the loss of control systems were broadcast, company PR reps rushed to say how "impossible" this was. It had to be something else. The odds were said to be "one chance in a billion". But the odds were not flying the aircraft that day, Captain Haynes was.

The crew soon knew that the aircraft was in very serious trouble. The crew of United 232 did not deny that the problem was real nor did they waste time "thinking positive thoughts" or telling passengers and air traffic controllers "everything will be OK". Neither did they give up and let the plane fall from the sky. They walked the Middle Ground. It can be a very narrow place to find your footing sometimes. But through a combination of luck, skill and preparation of the flight crew, the air traffic controllers and the emergency response personnel, the aircraft and its passenger took the only path that remained for them that day. Without the prudent preparations of all these people, the Middle Ground would have vanished.

There were 285 people on board United 232. For 111 of them, it was indeed the end of the world. For many who lost loved ones, it was also the end of the world as they knew it. But had the crew not stood on the Middle Ground, somewhere between denial and despair, 174 more people would have perished that day.

As a professional software developer, I know that the Y2K problem is real. I also know that the potential for disruptions of our infrastruce is also real. What I cannot tell you is precisely what will happen and how bad it will be. They are just too many variables. But I am convinced that serious preparation by all people is a prudent and wise thing to do. It adds a resilience that allows us to collectively withstand moderate disruptions without panicking. I am also convinced that we will face nothing so horrible in Y2K that it cannot be overcome by prudent preparations. But lacking those preparations, we needlessly erode the Middle Ground. Could Y2K be a 'bump in the road'? I suppose it could, but I am becoming increasingly pessimistic. I think somewhere in the middle is much more likely.

But as I have watched Y2K unfold over the last several months, it is the continuing erosion of the Middle Ground that concerns me the most. Companies and goverments have rushed to deny that such a ridiculous possibility exists. They worry only about their own corner of the universe and seek to protect it at all costs. Perceptions become more important than realities and the danger signs are ignored wherever they occur. Missed deadlines seem to mean nothing. They have collectively brought their public relations guns to bear in a war to convince everyone that significant infrastructure disruptions are absolutely impossible. They point to the extreme in a short-sighted attempt to discredit the middle. They collectively discourage significant preparations by the masses. In doing so, they dangerously erode the Middle Ground.

For if it turns out that such disruptions are anything more than a "bump in the road", they will surely regret their folly. So will we all.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), March 19, 1999



Good analogy in a masterful analysis.

Your deepening concerns are very understandable.

Please keep posting. Regards,

-- Watchful (seethesea@msn.com), March 19, 1999.

Arnie, great post, thanks!

I tend to believe we can keep the middle ground, especially if the electric stays up. That doesn't mean that it won't be painful, nor that it won't be TEOTWAWKI, just that it will be largely survivable. Preparation (physical, mental, financial) will help, the more, the merrier. Lulling the masses won't, I agree.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), March 19, 1999.

Arnie - Can we get your permission to copy and distribute your analysis? Mary

-- Mary (SWEEP6@prodigy.net), March 19, 1999.

Arnie, that was a really nice post. Thank you. I agree -- the middle ground is being lost. Both sides are getting more polarized as time goes on, and moderation is going out the window. Unfortunately, planning for the masses, or even a community, can only happen when considering the middle ground, somewhere between "survival of my own self" and "pretending there's nothing to worry about."

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), March 19, 1999.


My husband and I finally planned a neighborhood meeting for this Sat. to raise local awareness. I would really like to distribute your thoughts, to keep the conversation from polarizing toward the extremes. I couldn't agree more, your beautifully written analogy puts the discussion right where it belongs. Thanks

-- Bingo (beenlurkingallthistime@upstate.ny), March 19, 1999.


Let me suggest that you EMail your post as a "Letter to the Editor" of every newspaper that you can. (Diane can probably recall her list of links to newspapers)

I would also suggest that you send a copy to each member of Congress and every public official that you can reach by EMail.

Everyone should read it, but many will not have the opportunity to do so without some publication of this sort.

I wonder how many editors would have the guts, foresight and compassion to publish it?

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), March 19, 1999.

Thanks Arnie,

I believe that I live in the middle ground.

-- Ramp Rat (Aviation_R_us@noname.nocity), March 19, 1999.


Exactly. Do you think this is a reflection of our culture these days? "Perceptions become more important than realities". This is why no one knows what will happen. No one will discuss reality.

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), March 19, 1999.

To Mary, Bingo, and all. You certainly have my permission to copy and redistribute my post above as you see fit. I would appreciate if you fix a couple of my typos if you get - change the sentence "They are just too many variables." to "There are just too many variables." Also, change "aircraft and its passenger" to "aircraft and its passengers".


-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), March 19, 1999.

And infrastruce to infrastructure? ;-)

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), March 19, 1999.

Trcia: Yp! Tha one to. Thnks! :-)

-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), March 19, 1999.

Sir, I found your dissertation on the Middle Ground, an example of a well thought out, accurate expressed position of where we find ourselves. I also weigh the proposition, that those in the middle of the road, get hit by traffic from both directions. Of course, this need not stop one who has right on his side. I am also reminded of the Cow Palace, in 1964 and Senator Goldwater's statements "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice"  "Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." I only express these sentiments to show that a mind as feeble as the one I possess can be caught in a conundrum. My instincts urge me to heed your prompting. I only hope that these thoughts do not persuade anyone away from your excellent , accurate interpretation of events as they are at this time.

I shall miss meeting youCharon

-- Charon (Thatplace@downbelow.com), March 19, 1999.

Thanks Arnie. The postmodern embracing of appearance over reality is a subject that has been of abiding interest to me. I have a bookmark to a site that has great essays on the ever-growing world of simulation that is the human habitat called Earth. It's called Transparency Now. The author is Ken Sanes. One essay I reread today is "Power and Appearances". It's at:

Power and Appearances

All in all a collection of great essays on postmodern culture. Main URL is: http://www.transparencynow.com

-- Donna Barthuley (moment@pacbell.net), March 19, 1999.

And another from Ken Sanes, at Transparency Now,...perhaps the more apropos to the "Middle Ground" thread.

The News Media's Effort To Hide From Significant Truth

-- Donna Barthuley (moment@pacbell.net), March 19, 1999.

Couldn't have said it better, Arnie. Thank you for letting Makes me wonder:

Will the polarization stay at its current level or escalate? Or, will the people go to "middle ground?"

If the polarization rises, will it get ugly (serious name-calling, persecution, etc.), or will arguments be discussed in a reasonable manner and tone?

-- Tim (pixmo@pixelquest.com), March 19, 1999.

Arnie, if I remember correctly, there was another aspect of the Flight 232 story which contributed greatly to the passenger survival rate, and that was the high level of coordination and competency among the emergency response teams in Sioux City. It seems that the man who organized and led the city's emergency teams had in previous times cajoled, badgered, and generally made a pain in the butt of himself when it came to training and doing scenario exercises for the city response teams. He kept saying, "Well, what if such and such happens? What will we do?" Before the Flight 232 crash landing, he was considered to be a little nutsy and overboard on being well prepared. Afterward he was considered a hero.

Preparation counts.

-- Bonnie Camp (bonniec@mail.odyssey.net), March 19, 1999.

The part "Thank you for letting Makes me..." was supposed to be....

"Thank you for letting us restribute your post."

- Got cut and paste skills?

-- Tim (pixmo@pixelquest.com), March 19, 1999.

Arnie - Outstanding! Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared.

-- Steve King (parse@nospam.earth.com), March 19, 1999.

I was once ridiculed on this board for seeing the middle ground. But I'm with you on this one, Arnie.


-- Buddy (buddydc@go.com), March 19, 1999.

Well done, Arnie. Your words sing.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), March 19, 1999.

Your analogy is right on the mark as well as beautifully articulated.....thank you for allowing us to use it for distribution.

-- seagreen (seagreen@seagreen.com), March 19, 1999.


(Thundering Applause) Excellent! Well put, thank you!

-- Cary Mc from Tx (Caretha@compuserve.com), March 20, 1999.


Let me add my kudos for your post. I will not use any adjectives to describe it; I can't decide which dozen of them would be most appropriate. :-)

And thanks for your permission to distribute it.

Let me add to the typo corrections: " must be accessed and"... should be " must be assessed and"...



-- Jerry B (skeptic76@erols.com), March 20, 1999.

GOoD joBBiNG arNiE!!!!!

BudDy!!!!! QUesTIoN FRoM DIetER #451!!!! IS It noT TrUE THaT ThE MiDDlE GRouND iN HErE UsA DEpENdS ON A BuMP in roAD??????? cAN UsA HaVE GroUNDInG In tHE MIddLe iF ALL otHErS ArE In meLtdoWN And uSa hiTS 5 oR MOrE????? DIetER sAys unLikELy, doES hE NoT?????? yeS!!!! HeLLo???? sO ThEN Is iT NOt trUE THaT WE muSt occUR 3 oR LesS???? HMMmmMm????? GOod moRNinG!!!! fLAmES????? aS In goIng dowN In whEN ThE MAssES ArE PrepAReD NoT???????

-- Dieter (questions@toask.com), March 20, 1999.

Thanks to everyone here for the help in editing this. If any of you do repost this, I would greatly appreciate it if you could incorporate the corrections submitted above by my fellow forum participants.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), March 21, 1999.

I have typeset Mr. Rimmer's essay and posted it on my site (with his permission). You are welcome to link there if you wish.

I have also sent a note to Ed Yourdon and Gary North, submitting a link to Mr. Rimmer's essay. (I'm already pulling hits!)

Great work Mr. Rimmer!!!!

Here's the link: http://linus.highpoint.edu/~bblatchl/Y2KErosion.html

-- Brett Blatchley (bblatchl@inmar-inc.com), March 22, 1999.

Arnie and all,

If anyone's serious about emailing the above essay to editors, one of my favorite links may be of help.


Go there and find your newspaper.

Also do a search on "Editor and Publisher," which used to be the mother of all publications listers.


-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), March 22, 1999.

Excellent analogy, Arnie!!!


Sorry. Have no idea how to find those much earlier post links.

Diane, still a "5"

Consider this for sources ...

National Journalism Associations

Several national journalism assocations are listed below, followed by a link to their home page, if available. The name of the elected president is followed by the chief staff person and the headquarters' address, phone, fax, and primary e-mail address. (From American Soc. of Newspaper Editors web-site)

http://www.asne.org/ links/copmbrs.htm

Or great links ...

National Press Club
Reporter's Internet Resources Service Links
(Warning: Long load time, but worth the wait)

http:// www.press.org/library/reporter.htm

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 22, 1999.

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